Values in Action: How do you practice the art of appreciation?
Welcome to the core values in action column. Each week I will talk about one core value and how to put that value into action in your life. We can talk about our core values all day long, we can make a list and hang it on our fridge (I did) but if we don’t understand how to put that value into action, we are not genuinely embracing or honoring that value as quintessential to our life.
Yesterday, I talked about love, and particularly about self-love and how one of my goals in 2013 is to show more love and acceptance for myself and who I am right now in this moment. I have been keeping a journal for the past couple of weeks that is a collection of interior landscapes, each page has a drawing or image and whatever words pop into my head. This morning I pulled out my deck of Core Values cards and randomly selected a card. I drew the Appreciation Card you see in the image above. Coincidence? I doubt it.
So I sat for a moment and asked myself, what does appreciation look like? What does it feel like? Here’s what I came up with. A golden hand. The paint I used has a metallic glow to it, it was perfect. As I looked at it, jotted a few notes, added a few more lines, “Appreciation is the Midas Touch.”
Throughout my life I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the Midas Touch – in friendships, in my family, projects, my business, etc. One example was the receipt of a full scholarship to get my Ph.D. at Stanford University. Another example was finding the perfect house for my family of four in Santa Barbra, CA – in one day. I also think I am pretty good, most of the time, at showing appreciation to others for the gifts I receive.
Why then is it so hard to show appreciation for my physical self – how I look or how much I weigh? Why is it hard to share my art, my poetry? I remembering growing up and rarely hearing anyone accept a compliment with graciousness and ease. There was always a snappy comment – “Oh, this old rag?” “You’re kidding right? I look awful!” “It was no big deal.” These comments seemed to be accompanied by a frown, embarrassed laugh or even incredulity. “Are you talking to me? You can’t possibly be talking to me?”
My mother’s favorite comment usually sounded something like, “Are you really going out dressed like that? Aren’t you going to at least put some lipstick on?” That didn’t do much to improve my self-worth and certainly didn’t help me appreciate my own appearance!
It took years before I was able to receive compliments with a simple “Thank you.”
The art of appreciation is a two-way street. Much like I found it difficult to receive a compliment, I found it too easy to show appreciation and shower others with praise. Does that sound familiar? Do you know people like that in your life? People often use appreciation as a tool for getting attention. If I compliment you on your blouse, you will notice me, maybe even talk to me!
The root of the problem here is the same, whether we find it impossible to accept praise or we shower others with appreciation: lack of self-worth. We don’t feel like we deserve it.
The definition of appreciation
The definition of appreciation is to recognize and to enjoy the good qualities of someone or something. I have a lot of great qualities that I am proud of and share freely with others. I have other qualities I am not so proud of… don’t we all? I am not perfect and don’t expect others to be perfect either.
As I discussed in my post yesterday about looking for love in all the wrong places, it’s so important to shower ourselves with love and appreciation for every aspect of who we are: the good, the bad and the ugly. I am nothing if not extraordinarily human. I ate too much over the holidays. I yelled at my kids when they got too loud. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t blog. I didn’t scour my house when friends came to visit. But I sure had fun!
The core value of appreciation is about celebrating ALL of who we are or others are.
My friend Kate Frank always makes me feel appreciated and valued. She even signs her emails, “I appreciate you.” What a simple, personal touch that makes me feel special. One of my goals for 2013 will be to look at myself and say, “I appreciate you.” We don’t need to sugar coat it, deny it or avoid appreciation. We need to honor ourselves first so that we can better honor others.
Is it really that simple? I think it is!
How can you put appreciation into action in your life this week? The challenge is to find the right balance of showing appreciation and receiving appreciation from others.
Here are a couple of writing prompts to get you started:
1. Make a list of what you appreciate about yourself the most (do this for your spouse or kids, too, it’s a great reminder.) Think hard, what have you forgotten? Look in the mirror! Describe physical, mental and spiritual qualities that make you who you are.
2. Write a letter of appreciation to yourself, based on the list above.
3. Do you struggle with showing appreciation to others? Or showing too much appreciation? Write in your journal about why appreciation matters. What’s the gift to you when you appreciate someone else?
4. Write a letter of appreciation to someone from your past that made a difference in your life: a parent, grandparent, sibling, teacher, mentor, pastor? If that person is still alive, send them the letter.
All of the illustrations that you will see in this column are from my deck of Core Values cards. I originally created this deck of cards as a Christmas gift for my mom. I wanted to create something special, unique and personal. After a few friends saw the cards, I realized most of us want to understand and honor our core values. The deck of cards offers a fun way to do that and is a perfect companion to my book From Fizzle to Sizzle: 4 Crucial Tools for Relationship Repair, available on Amazon.com.